Peppers perfect for our climate

Are you tired of the drama? You fantasize about the perfect plant. You select the hardiest specimen. You prepare the perfect spot. You plant and pamper the tomato plant of your dreams and silently hope for the best.

Is this a familiar scenario? Forget about all the high hopes and face reality. Plant peppers!

Peppers are easy to grow. Bell peppers, and many hot peppers, are native to Central and North America. A wide range of hot peppers are also native to Asia, mainly Thailand and China.

If you decide to grow peppers, you will have a huge number of choices. You can pick sweet or hot. When it comes to hot, you really have quite a choice.

You can even color-coordinate your pepper to your garden. There is the old standby, the plain old green ones, but there are also yellow, red, and orange ones. There is even a purple one!

You can select the shape you want. There are traditional bell pepper shapes, there are long and slender shapes and there are round or cherry peppers.

You may try sowing pepper seeds. To have the best chance of success, it is best to start them indoors, eight to 10 weeks before the last frost date. For your information, seedlings are slow growers. You can take the challenge, or just go to a garden store and purchase young plants.

The days to maturity are 70 to 90, depending on the variety.

Select a location in your garden that receives full sun. Prepare the garden, adding plenty of compost and a general fertilizer.

Peppers like hot weather. This is true of any variety you grow.

Space 18-24 inches apart, in rows 24 to 36 inches apart.

Peppers prefer moist soil. Avoid wet soil. Water regularly in the hot, dry, months.

You can add mulch to keep down the weeds and to retain moisture. As the peppers develop, use a fertilizer high in phosphorous and potassium.

Peppers can be picked as soon as they reach the size you want. They taste good from the minute they're big enough to eat, but their stock of vitamins A and C is highest when the fruits have reached full maturity, and in the case of non-green ones, when they have achieved two-thirds of their desired color.

Spider mites and aphids are the most common insects that attack pepper plants. You may have an occasional borer.Use an organic insecticide or dust if you have a problem.

Peppers are generally disease-free. Fungal infections can be treated with fungicides. Apply treatment as soon as you see it.

Do you want to know what the hottest of the hottest peppers is? The Scoville Organoleptic Scale was created in 1912 to measure the level of capsaicin in hot peppers. Capsaicin is the chemical ingredient that makes peppers hot.

• Paprika, 1,000

• Cherry Bomb, 2,000

• Jalapeno, 4,000

• Serrano, 8,000

• Cayenne, 30,000

• Tabasco, 80,000

• Thai, 80,000

• Habanero, 200,000